Titanic – The unfortunate historical event

The simulation of Titanic. Photo from Esquire/ Sarah Rense.

Titanic, the word itself gives most of us the image of Jack and Rose. The image of the epic romance and disaster movie that showed us about two people with a tragic love story. But did you know? Although the movie Titanic, that was released in 1997 was based on a true story, it is actually a true story with added fictions. Jack and Rose that we yearn for, never existed.

The luxury British passenger liner, Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, off the coast of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic. It was Titanic’s maiden voyage, on it’s way to the New York City from Southampton, England, with 2,240 passengers and crew on board, when it hit an iceberg, killing over 1,500 people. Titanic eventually became the most famous tragedies in modern history, inspiring numerous story and films, including the movie Titanic that we all adore.

The Titanic departing Southampton on 10 April 1912. Photo from The Bettmann Archive

Titanic was back then the largest ship afloat and the second of three Olympic-class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line. The ship was highly decorated, featuring an immense first-class dining saloon, four elevators, and a swimming pool. It was built so exclusive that the second-class accommodations of Titanic were comparable to the first-class features of other ships. Although the third-class offerings were modest, they were still known for it’s relative comfort.

Members of Titanic’s crew wearing life jackets, 1912. Ann Ronan Picture Library/Heritage-Images/Imagestate

Furthermore, the Titanic was at the time, one of the largest and most opulent ship in the world. It had a carrying capacity of 46,328 tons, and when fully laden the ship weighed of more than 52,000 tons. The astonishing ship was approximately 882.5 feet (269 metres) long and about 92.5 feet (28.2 metres) wide at its widest point.

Since the builders of Titanic claimed that four of the compartments in the ship could be flooded without endangering the liner’s buoyancy, many people claimed and bragged saying that the Titanic was unsinkable. But alas, that was not what had happened.

Titanic, nicknamed as “Millionaire’s Special,” set sail on April 10, 1912, and was captained by Edward J. Smith, nicknamed as the “Millionaire’s Captain” because of his popularity with wealthy passengers.

The first-class lounge on the Titanic. Photo from Universal Images Group/Superstock.

Jack Phillips and Harold Bride, the wireless radio operators on the ship had recieved several warnings of an iceberg throughout the voyage. Most of these were passed along the bridge of the ship.

On April 14, the Titanic began to approach an area that is known to have icebergs. Due to this, the captain Smith had slightly altered the ship’s course to head farther south while still maintaining it’s speed of about 22 knots.

A steamship named Mesaba sent a warning of an ice field to Titanic at approximately 9:40 pm. However, this message was never relayed to the Titanic’s bridge. At about 10:55 pm, the nearby Leyland liner Californian had also sent a message saying that they had stopped their journey after being surrounded by ice. This note was also ignored and Phillips, who was handling passenger messages, had scolded California interrupting him.

The ocean was unusually calm that night and so it would have been extremely difficult to spot an iceberg as there would be little water breaking at the ship’s base. On top of that, Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee, the two lookouts stationed in the crow’s nest of Titanic that night had misplaced the binoculars as well.

At approximately 11:40 pm the same night, an iceberg was sighted nearly 400 nautical miles (740 km) south of Newfoundland, Canada and the bridge was notified of it. The First Officer William Murdoch immediately ordered both the ship and the engines to be reversed.

Although the Titanic began to turn, the order was too late as the ship was getting closer to the iceberg where avoiding collision became impossible. The starboard side of the ship scraped along the iceberg, rupturing five of its supposedly watertight compartments.

An SOS sent at 1:40 am. The final distress call from Titanic was transmitted at 2:17am; three minutes before the ship sank. Photo from The National Archives of the UK

After assessing the damage done by the iceberg, Andrews determined that as the ship’s forward compartments filled with water, its bow would drop deeper into the ocean. This would cause the water spilling from the compartments to spill over into each succeeding compartment resulting the ship’s collapsing. Most experts believe that if the engines of the ship were not revered, it would have survived although the ship would would hit the iceberg head-on. However, the order’s of Andrew to reverse the ship and the engine caused the Titanic to turn slower resulting in unfortunate events.

Distress signals were immediately sent to nearby ships, however, even though the a lot of ships received the signal, they were far too apart to be able to reach the Titanic in less than three hours. The Californian which was in the vicinity had its wireless turned off for the night.

As the crew made attempts to contact nearby vessels, orders were made to launch the lifeboats with orders of women and children first. However, since the crewmen worried that the davits would not be able to support the weight of a fully loaded boat, the amount of lifeboats on the ship were too less to carry all of it’s passengers.  All of the 20 boats in the ship could only carry a total of 1,178 people which added to another problems for the night. The first lifeboat to leave, Lifeboat number 7 had only about 27 people, though it had space for 65. In the end, only 705 people would be rescued in lifeboats.

Survivors drifted overnight on open seas until the steamship Carpathia reached them at dawn. Photo from the National Archives of thee UK.

Despite all the chaos present on the ship, the musicians of Titanic remained calm in order to entertain the passengers. Although it is not exactly known for how long they performed, most sources say that they played until shortly before the ship sank. None of the musicians had survived the sinking.

At around 1:00 am, the base (E deck) of the Grand Staircase had already reached the water, growing panic among several male passengers as well. The extreme panicking of people had also caused the Fifth Officer Harold Lowe to fire his gun three times. By then, it was noted that the ship “cannot last much longer.”

After about an hour, the stern’s propellers -that was risen out of the water as the Titanic’s bow sank- were clearly visible above the water. The ship had then, only contained of  three collapsible boats. Smith had then released the crew, saying that “it’s every man for himself.” He was never seen after that nor was his body.

At approximately 2:18 am, the lights of the ship went out with the ship breaking into two halves. Reports say that the bow of the ship, that went underwater, took about  six minutes, -likely traveling at approximately 30 miles (48 km) per hour- to reach the ocean bottom. The stern of the ship eventually became completely vertical  and remained in that position before beginning its final plunge.

As the ship completely sank, hundreds of passengers and crew went into the icy water while having the fear of being swamped. By the time, the lifeboats rowed back to get the remaining survivors, almost all the people in the water had died from exposure. Over 1,500 people perished due to this event, of which about 700 people in the crew who survived but had fatalities. The people in the third-class was who suffered the most. Out of approximately 710 people, only about 174 people had survived the incident.